John’s Believe It Or Not… June 26th

In 1959 – Queen Elizabeth II officially opens 318 km long St. Lawrence Seaway with US President Eisenhower. In 1948 U.S. begins Berlin Airlift. In 1807 Lightning strikes in Luxembourg. In 1945 U.N. Charter signed. In 1993 Clinton punishes Iraq for the plot to kill Bush.

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John Fioravanti is standing in front of the blackboard in his classroom.

Oh-Oh… It’s Monday! Did you know…

* 1959 – Queen Elizabeth II officially opens 318 km long St. Lawrence Seaway with US President Eisenhower. (The St Lawrence Seaway (Great Lakes Waterway) is the system of locks, canals, and channels linking the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence River with the Atlantic Ocean. The construction of progressively larger canals along the St Lawrence River began as early as 1783. By 1900, a complete network of shallow draft canals allowed uninterrupted navigation from Lake Superior to Montréal.

The waterway, some 3,700 km long from Île d’Anticosti to the head of Lake Superior, permits vessels of up to 225.5 m long, 23.8 m wide and a maximum draft (i.e., the distance between the top of the water and the bottom of the ship) of 8.1 m to sail from Montréal to Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior. The majority of the cargo moving through the Seaway is iron ore, coal and other mine products, followed by agricultural goods, other bulk cargo (e.g., petroleum products and cement) and finished goods (e.g., iron and steel). Approximately 44 million tons of cargo moves through the Seaway annually, in contrast with the annual average of about 11 million tons in the 1950s.

Between 1913 and 1932, the Welland Canal (between Lakes Erie and Ontario) was rebuilt, but the United States was reluctant to enter a larger scheme, that is, to rebuild the Montréal–Lake Ontario channels. A threat by the Canadian government in 1951 to build a seaway entirely within Canadian territory resulted in a final agreement in 1954. Construction on the St Lawrence Seaway and Power Project began on 10 August 1954. In addition to the building of seven locks and deepening navigation channels to a depth of 8.2 m, the project also included the construction of the 2,090 megawatts Moses-Saunders Powerhouse near Cornwall, Ontario. The Seaway was opened to commercial traffic 25 April 1959. The official opening on 26 June 1959 was attended by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Queen Elizabeth II.)

Queen Elizabeth and Guests on Britannia
Queen Elizabeth and Guests on Britannia (University of Saskatchewan)

* 1948 U.S. begins Berlin Airlift. (On this day in 1948, U.S. and British pilots begin delivering food and supplies by airplane to Berlin after the city is isolated by a Soviet Union blockade.

When World War II ended in 1945, defeated Germany was divided into Soviet, American, British and French zones of occupation. The city of Berlin, though located within the Soviet zone of occupation, was also split into four sectors, with the Allies taking the western part of the city and the Soviets the eastern. In June 1948, Josef Stalin’s government attempted to consolidate control of the city by cutting off all land and sea routes to West Berlin in order to pressure the Allies to evacuate. As a result, beginning on June 24 the western section of Berlin and its 2 million people were deprived of food, heating fuel, and other crucial supplies.

Though some in U.S. President Harry S. Truman’s administration called for a direct military response to this aggressive Soviet move, Truman worried such a response would trigger another world war. Instead, he authorized a massive airlift operation under the control of General Lucius D. Clay, the American-appointed military governor of Germany. The first planes took off from England and western Germany on June 26, loaded with food, clothing, water, medicine, and fuel.

By July 15, an average of 2,500 tons of supplies was being flown into the city every day. The massive scale of the airlift made it a huge logistical challenge and at times a great risk. With planes landing at Tempelhof Airport every four minutes, round the clock, pilots were being asked to fly two or more round-trip flights every day, in World War II planes that were sometimes in need of repair.

The Soviets lifted the blockade in May 1949, having earned the scorn of the international community for subjecting innocent men, women, and children to hardship and starvation. The airlift–called die Luftbrucke or “the air bridge” in German–continued until September 1949, for a total delivery of more than 1.5 million tons of supplies and a total cost of over $224 million. When it ended, the eastern section of Berlin was absorbed into Soviet East Germany, while West Berlin remained a separate territory with its own government and close ties to West Germany. The Berlin Wall, built in 1961, formed a dividing line between East and West Berlin. Its destruction in 1989 presaged the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and marked the end of an era and the reemergence of Berlin as the capital of a new, unified German nation.)

U.S. Navy and Air Force aircrafts unload at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift. (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Navy and Air Force aircraft unload at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift. (U.S. Air Force) (Office of the Historian – Department of State)

* 1807 Lightning strikes in Luxembourg. (On this day in 1807, lightning hits a gunpowder factory in the small European country of Luxembourg, killing more than 300 people. Lightning kills approximately 73 people every year in the United States alone, but victims are almost always killed one at a time. The Luxembourg disaster may have been the most deadly lightning strike in history.

The earth experiences 8 to 9 million lightning strikes every single day. In a typical year, the United States will see about 70,000 thunderstorms somewhere in its territory. This produces approximately 20 million lightning strikes annually. A bolt of lightning can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit in instant heat. There are 100 million volts in an average lightning bolt, which can be as much as five miles long.

In 1807, Luxembourg was occupied by Napoleon’s army. The French dictator used the country to stockpile weapons and ammunition. Many underground bunkers were built for this purpose. In the southern Luxembourg city of Kirchberg, a fortress built in 1732 was used as an armory.

When lightning struck the fortress on June 26, the ammunition housed within ignited on contact, causing a massive explosion. Two entire blocks were completely razed by the blast, which caused several other fires to rage nearby. The London Times later reported that this city has been plunged into the greatest consternation and distress.)

300 people dead in one of the most deadly lightning strikes in history
300 people dead in one of the most deadly lightning strikes in history (Oddee)

* 1945 U.N. Charter signed. (In the Herbst Theater Auditorium in San Francisco, delegates from 50 nations sign the United Nations Charter, establishing the world body as a means of saving “succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The Charter was ratified on October 24, and the first U.N. General Assembly met in London on January 10, 1946.

Despite the failure of the League of Nations in arbitrating the conflicts that led up to World War II, the Allies as early as 1941 proposed establishing a new international body to maintain peace in the postwar world. The idea of the United Nations began to be articulated in August 1941, when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter, which proposed a set of principles for international collaboration in maintaining peace and security. Later that year, Roosevelt coined “United Nations” to describe the nations allied against the Axis powers–Germany, Italy, and Japan. The term was first officially used on January 1, 1942, when representatives of 26 Allied nations met in Washington, D.C., and signed the Declaration by the United Nations, which endorsed the Atlantic Charter and presented the united war aims of the Allies.

In October 1943, the major Allied powers–Great Britain, the United States, the USSR, and China–met in Moscow and issued the Moscow Declaration, which officially stated the need for an international organization to replace the League of Nations. That goal was reaffirmed at the Allied conference in Tehran in December 1943, and in August 1944 Great Britain, the United States, the USSR, and China met at the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Washington, D.C., to lay the groundwork for the United Nations. Over seven weeks, the delegates sketched out the form of the world body but often disagreed over issues of membership and voting. A compromise was reached by the “Big Three”–the United States, Britain, and the USSR–at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, and all countries that had adhered to the 1942 Declaration by the United Nations were invited to the United Nations founding conference.

On April 25, 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organization convened in San Francisco with 50 nations represented. Three months later, during which time Germany had surrendered, the final Charter of the United Nations was unanimously adopted by the delegates. On June 26, it was signed. The Charter, which consisted of a preamble and 19 chapters divided into 111 articles, called for the U.N. to maintain international peace and security, promote social progress and better standards of life, strengthen international law, and promote the expansion of human rights. The principal organs of the U.N., as specified in the Charter, were the Secretariat, the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Trusteeship Council.

On October 24, 1945, the U.N. Charter came into force upon its ratification by the five permanent members of the Security Council and a majority of other signatories. The first U.N. General Assembly, with 51 nations represented, opened in London on January 10, 1946. On October 24, 1949, exactly four years after the United Nations Charter went into effect, the cornerstone was laid for the present United Nations headquarters, located in New York City. Since 1945, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded more than ten times to the United Nations and its organizations or to individual U.N. officials, most recently to both the organization as a whole and Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001.)

Photo of the signing ceremony.
(Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation)

* 1993 Clinton punishes Iraq for the plot to kill Bush. (In retaliation for an Iraqi plot to assassinate former U.S. President George Bush during his April visit to Kuwait, President Bill Clinton orders U.S. warships to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraqi intelligence headquarters in downtown Baghdad.

On April 13, 1993, the day before George Bush was scheduled to visit Kuwait and be honored for his victory in the Persian Gulf War, Kuwaiti authorities foiled a car bomb plot to assassinate him. Fourteen suspects, most of them Iraqi nationals, were arrested, and the next day their massive car bomb was discovered in Kuwait City. Citing “compelling evidence” of the direct involvement of Iraqi intelligence in the assassination attempt, President Clinton ordered a retaliatory attack against their alleged headquarters in the Iraqi capital on June 26. Twenty-three Tomahawk missiles, each costing more than a million dollars, were fired off the USS Peterson in the Red Sea and the cruiser USS Chancellorsville in the Persian Gulf, destroying the building and, according to Iraqi accounts, killing several civilians.)

george h.w. bush political cartoon
George H.W. Bush political cartoon (Pinterest)

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* This Day In History – What Happened Today   http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* Historica Canada – The Canadian Encyclopedia http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/st-lawrence-seaway/

 

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

15 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… June 26th”

  1. Regarding the lightning in Luxembourg story, wow. I feel for anyone who was in that facility at the time of the strike! As for the WriterBeat article, thanks for sticking up for me. Now I remember why I stopped cross-posting there: it’s not a respectful forum. I’ve asked Autumn to remove the article there. Hopefully she will do so asap. We can disagree and do so without being offensive. You’re a great friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that Luxembourg story was horrifying! I just joined that WriterBeat site a few days ago – Autumn wanted to post my article Does History Repeat Itself? I did. Did you happen to notice the unrelenting attacks I’ve received yesterday and today? That place certainly seems to have its fair share of trolls masquerading as members of the intellectual elite. I’ve met some nice folks too. Not sure I’ll post there again. I’m sorry that jerk jumped all over your post. I checked out his profile – nada. Mr. Anonymous – just a statement about how he was personally recruited by Autumn. I’m sure we all were invited that way. I think Autumn should do some housecleaning before she loses a lot of contributors. Anyway, you’re welcome, Christy – happy to defend a person’s right to publish what they think without being attacked for their trouble.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John, I had Autumn remove my article. I’m not going to post there again. No I hadn’t noticed your article there but wow that’s awful that your wonderful post had received attacks too. It’s not that we mind having people disagree with our opinions. Absolutely not the case. Instead, we simply want to be respected and have an intelligent conversation. If you and I are getting a bad taste in our mouths, I have a feeling we’re not alone. Then again, the platform might suit other people. To each their own. Regardless, it still stands that I appreciate you 🙂 Let’s not let this ruin our day!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I understand, Christy – and I’ve spent WAY too much time on that site today. I’m leaning away from posting there again. A couple of participants there say that the site is civilized compared to some that they’ve been to. They also say that the majority are respectful. However, the trolls are relentless.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I went to your post and was so disappointed in the few people that attacked personally there too. While I know we need thick skin as writers I’m not interested in conversations that don’t have constructive dialogue but instead insist on tearing one another down. Trolls, that’s exactly what some of those commenters are! Cheers to a new day 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Thanks for checking that out, Christy. I’ll leave that post up one more day and if I continue to get comments from the trolls, I’ll pull it down myself. That site needs a Code of Conduct. Autumn has had enough complaints and has done nothing, so I must conclude that either she doesn’t care or she enjoys the bloodletting. Either way, I want no part of it. Have a wonderful week, Christy!

              Liked by 1 person

  2. My goodness…the cartoon hits home, doesn’t it? I loved the photo of Queen Elizabeth as a young woman – opening the seaway. Another great posting, John. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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